‘WE’RE NOT ILLEGAL GOLD PANNERS BY CHOICE’
29 September 2017
READING and listening to stories of how people die whilst illegally mining gold, I have always wondered why some people still choose to risk their lives until the day this I visited the now defunct Durban Mine in Matabeleland North.
Located 100 km north of Bulawayo, Durban Mine is a small mining area that has turned into a remote place of residence with no hope for a better life to every child at that place.
As if the 18km-walk to and from the nearest primary school is not dreadful enough, teenagers have to walk 48km to the only secondary school closest to Durban mine, an option that has made illegal gold panning seem like a better option.
Ninety percent of the children have dropped out of school and have resorted to a life of crime as it is the only means of survival they have grown to know.
A young man, who grew up at Durban Mine, Onias Ndlovu, related how they ended up committing crime to earn a living.
“Our lives are unlike any other 21st century youths could ever imagine; we don’t have a secondary school, anyone interested in attending school should walk 9km to the nearest primary school then walk 9km back.
“That makes it 18km every day; then we opt to drop out.
“Those who are strong enough to endure the pain of walking 18 km per day for seven years, end up staying at home after completing Grade 7 because we don’t have a secondary school anywhere near.
“When our parents were still employed by John Muire, a white gold miner, life was a little better because they could afford to secure transport for us to go to school and do what other children are doing,” Ndlovu said.
“Mining is the only way of earning a living, our parents and everyone here knows, even if you think of agriculture it is difficult to make it work because we don’t receive enough rainfall.
“This area is really dry and our mothers walk about 5km to get water.”
Durban Mine area has no hospital, no shops and life is quite expensive.
Ndlovu’s wish however is to one day wake up in a better environment where there are more opportunities and stability.
The gold-panner told H-Metro that if government could revive the mine it would be progressive and solve most of their problems.
He also mentioned that a youth organisation by the name Youth in Business League (YBL) visited their place and promised to help their community in any way they can.
H-Metro made a follow up with the YBL and got in touch with the organisation’s secretary general Shepherd Chitongo who indicated that his organisation is in the process of getting help for the vulnerable Durban Mine residents.
“We are aware of the situation at Durban Mine and we have already started working on that.
“We are trying our best to make sure the government takes action and rescue those people and we have been there twice.
“We believe that the best solution to their problem is to re-open their mine and maybe those people can start living better lives,” Chitongo said.
YBL is also in the process of sourcing funds to start projects for the youths in Matabeleland South.
“We were so touched by how people were living. Those guys do not have any way of earning a living. But as a youth development organisation, we believe that if resources are provided to those people they can do better.
“Projects like carpentry and flea markets can definitely give those people a better life. We came up with YBL after discovering how our youths in this country are suffering and our intention is to make them earn a living in a decent way.
“It is very true, they are certain circumstances that can lead people into committing crimes and instead of judging these people lets help them to stay away from crime,” he said.